Far too often we are bombarded with the common refrain from those outside and even within our own community, that Blacks need to start, manage and operate our businesses as the answer to the unemployment and poverty crisis.
Hold it for a moment, I do not want to be viewed as the harbinger of doom, but sadly such an option is not a feasible blanket solution for all Black people. While entrepreneurship may be a viable answer to the economic woes in any community, not all Blacks are capable of starting a viable business of their own. There is an old saying that not everyone is meant to do everything, but in dealing with business this is definitely the truth. The debate that everyone can do anything if they are trained even finds expression in academic circles.
I beg to differ. If this belief holds true, then all children who are trained to sing would eventually become famous platinum-selling vocalists. We know that this is not true, as there are plenty of trained singers and very few who eventually reach the peak of success. Business is much the same way. Very few entrepreneurial businesses achieve longevity and prosperity.
Now in the case of vocal training, there are several aspects to becoming a successful vocalist that cannot be taught; things such as a unique voice that is pleasant to the ear, tone and pitch are not taught and are facets critical to success. Having your own business works very much the same way.
While just about anyone can be taught how to write a business plan, market his business and keep good financial records, you cannot teach or warn them about starting a business for the wrong reasons, focusing on their long-term goals and reliance on their own natural strengths, experience and personality for long-term success.
Take it or leave it, but these aspects are critical and vital to the success of any business venture, and not all Blacks are blessed in these ways. Thousands upon thousands of dollars have been lost because some Black person starts his or her own business for the wrong reasons. Trust me, but many Blacks are guilty of this. Ask the said Blacks why they chose to start that particular business and the answers are usually eerily similar and goes like this: “My Uncle or Auntie made a lot of money doing this,” or “My friend is doing alright with his business.”
Thinking based on answers such as these has led to an over-abundance today of barber shops, restaurants, home day cares, and even basement churches in our community. What we all seem to have forgotten and not grasped is that for every profitable Black business that we see in operation today, there are far too many that have failed within the first year of existence. Copycatting is not a good reason for starting your own business.
People wonder why so many dollars are spent outside of our Black neighbourhoods. Elementary, Watson! Original ideas, and often it is because there is a lack of diversity of businesses within our community. This is entirely our fault.
Therefore, only the people who are bringing original ideas and business ventures in our community should start a business, others should not.
Another striking reason why not all Blacks should start their own business is because too many of us are so easily distracted. Have you ever seen a business that starts one way but as soon as problems arise they change completely.
I am talking about the barbershop that soon starts selling clothes, the restaurant that starts selling bootleg CDs and DVDs. We tend to do this a lot, the reason being that we lose focus on why we chose the business we did. The whole notion of doing one thing and doing it well is critical to starting a business.
Although it takes adaptation and expansion for growth and success, many Blacks would rather chase what is hot instead of making their core product hotter. More clearly stated, the type of people who would rather put more stuff on the plate rather than make the hamburger taste better should not start a business at all. The key to success and longevity in anything is to embrace who you are to survive. Every individual is blessed with certain unique gifts, has unique strengths and weaknesses and unique experience.
Knowledge of self is crucial and vital in discovering the unique business idea that fits most closely with who you are. Herein is the crux as to why not all Black people should start their own business.
Even with all the education, experience and training in the world, many Black entrepreneurs have yet to discover who they are and what makes them special. Therefore, they have no idea what they themselves bring to the table, which in turn, from the start, handicaps the service or product that you are selling. A domino effect then comes into play; handicapped sales lead to fewer sales, which means less income and less income soon becomes no income and the business inevitably collapses.
We in the Black community must realize that starting our own businesses is like knocking on the front door of the dominant demographic and asking them to patronize our product or service. Being Black simply means that we are not afforded the luxury of hiding behind our product or service; therefore, who we are determines the acceptance.
We will always have to answer the question, “Okay, and who are you?” Those among us who are incapable of answering that question should not start their own business. Those of us with unique knowledge and the ability to take on the accompanying financial risk(s) of working for oneself should do so. Sadly, that does not include everyone. Some of us need to just go to work, period. Pointe finale!
Aleuta—The struggle continues.